DEAR EDITORS: – I would like to have your views on the eleventh chapter of Romans. It is a puzzle to me, but I know all Scripture will harmonize if we understand it. It looks to me that the Writer talks two ways. I have been wanting to ask some of you to give your views for several years, but hated to bother you.
I am sincerely yours,
J. E. BUCKNER.
PINE HILL, Texas.
As will be seen by the request of brother Buckner, he desires us to write upon the whole eleventh chapter of Romans, and while it is impossible to do so in one article, we have named the twenty-ninth verse as the foundation of what we may be given to write, which reads as follows: “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.”
By careful reading of the two preceding chapters it will be seen that the apostle had in heart and mind his brethren (the Jews), with longing desire for their salvation and spiritual welfare, saying, “I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.” Thus in writing to Gentiles at Rome he preaches the doctrine of God by calling attention to his dealings with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all Israel, then concludes with the words of our text as being the foundation of his hope for his brethren according to the flesh: “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” Hence as God had begun the work by giving gifts, calling and making promises to Israel, he would perform that work in his own way and time, but the result was sure: “All Israel shall be saved.”
In the first verse of the eleventh chapter he asks the question, Hath God east away his people? Then answers the question by saying, “God forbid.” His desire for his brethren’s salvation and his faith in God’s faithfulness seem perfectly linked together, hence he could write with all assurance that their salvation was sure, even though they as natural branches were cut off that the Gentiles might be grafted in and therefore saved. If the Lord was able to graft wild branches in and they became a part of the tame Olive Tree, is he not able to graft in the natural branches, that their life and salvation be sure? seems the argument of the apostle. Then, as the gifts and calling of God are without repentance, or in other words, not to be turned away from, will he not keep all his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Most assuredly so, hence “all Israel shall be saved.” It seems to us that the apostle in this chapter has two salvations, so to speak, in mind. He says the Jews had a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. They were very zealous, as he himself had been as Saul of Tarsus, of the law and the traditions of their fathers; from these things he wanted them saved. This is clearly shown by verses thirteen and fourteen: “I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.” They had, as Abraham’s seed, received the law and the promises as the earnest of their greater salvation, but were blinded for a season, the time thereof known only to God. Hence God’s promise is sure to all the seed, even though cut off, their eyes blinded, their ears heavy, and possessing the spirit of slumber. When the fullness of the Gentiles be come in, then the Lord will send out of Zion a Deliverer, who shall turn ungodliness away from Jacob, and they shall return and come to Zion with joy and everlasting songs upon their, head.
Since the Jews were cut off, the Lord has been dealing with the Gentiles, taking out of them a people for himself; they are called the bride, the Lamb’s wife. According to the statements of Paul in this chapter, the Lord will, when through dealing with the Gentiles, restore the kingdom to Israel, or in other words, establish the gospel church with and of them. The Lord did not deal with the Gentiles while he was dealing with the Jews; now he is not dealing with the Jews, nor will he until his dealing is through with the Gentiles, but Gentiles have no reason to boast over the Jews, because they bear not the root, but the root them. This shows that whether it be Jew or Gentile it is all of “mercy” through Jesus Christ, to the good of all men and for the glory of God the Father.
The fall of the Jews, as spoken of in verse twelve, simply means their cutting off, diminishing. If their fall be the riches of the world, or all nations, how much more their (the Jews’) fullness. In speaking of salvation coming to the Gentiles through the fall of the Jews, the apostle does not mean that the Jews were in any way instrumental in the salvation of the Gentiles, but that through their fall, or being cut off, the salvation of the Gentiles, embraced in the promise made to Abraham, was made manifest. “Salvation is of the Lord “ to all men, irrespective of nationality.
We, like brother Buckner, confess that some expressions in this eleventh chapter of Romans are confusing, yet when the Spirit breathes upon them all are clear and show forth that which all the children of God have in their own lives: the wonderful works of God in the redemption and salvation of his people.
Verse twenty tells us that the Jews were broken off because of unbelief, and that the Gentiles stand by faith, but they should not be highminded, but fear, for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he spare not the Gentiles. We have already shown that the cutting off of the Jews did not mean their everlasting death, or separation from God, because of his faithfulness to his gifts and calling. Even so with the Gentiles, should they be overtaken with a heart of unbelief in departing from the living God it would not mean their eternal condemnation, but another demonstration of the truth that it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. Salvation is absolutely sure to all embraced in the promise. Hence Paul says whether we live or whether we die we are the Lord’s. The Jews to-day, as for centuries past, are concerning the gospel enemies for our sakes, because we are benefited thereby, but as touching election they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes; in this sense they are benefited by the fathers.
The Gentiles, being wild branches and grafted in the tame Olive Tree, have been taught that salvation is by grace; even so when the Jews shall be grafted in again shall know that salvation is of grace. Being cut off, severed, from the olive tree, they are as separate from it as though they had never been a part of it, hence the receiving them again shall be life from the dead. “O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” But we all know he is faithful to every promise and every work. He does not repent or turn away from that he begins, but rather performs it until the day of Jesus Christ. Vessels of honor and vessels of dishonor are now and ever have been in his house, but his promises and calling embrace them, and their inheritance is sure, reserved in heaven for them.
In this very brief way we have tried to give what we have concerning this most important chapter, and hope brother Buckner may receive some light or comfort from it. K.
Elder H. C. Ker
Signs of the Times
Volume 84, No. 13.
July 1, 1916